Links & Contents I Liked 364

Hi all,

Happy Friday & a joyful weekend!

We have COVID-19 & #globaldev insights from Canada, Yemen, Australia, the military-industrial complex and Western anthropologists 'stuck' in Africa...and there's much more from Lebanon, Greece, Romania, Afghanistan, Tibet & Libya. Plus, how white people took over philanthropy & a great new Nyerere biography!


Enjoy!

My quotes of the week
Our detached and benevolent claim to ethnographic participant observation, always from a position of privilege and relative security, is put into question at precisely the moment when true participation finally becomes inevitable. Now it is us who “are participated” (as the old aid-worker joke went) by the pervasive virus that is in every touch—maybe in our body, maybe in that of the other. It challenges differentiation, threatening pathogenic communion. And the escape route that we had been able to count on for six decades of post-colonial anthropology is finally being withdrawn—the return flight home, in the worst case the medical evacuation at “unlimited expense.” (Corona, how are you?)

So what's an average Wednesday like for someone committed to both furthering that world-changing mission and getting in a mind-clearing run after cleaning up dog vomit?
 
(Elizabeth Cousens Has Raised Over $200 Million for the World Health Organization (Mostly) in Her Pajamas)


Now, the excuse that change takes time is bogus, and we can look to white organizations’ responses to the pandemic to prove this. A wave of flexibility, creativity and innovation happened overnight as people started to work from home. Protocol and procedures that dragged before were suddenly expedited. Decisions were made on the fly. Funds and budgets that were deemed complicated before, became accessible in crisis. Ideas that staff of color had been expressing for centuries were magically back on the table for consideration.
(How White People Conquered the Non-Profit Industry)


COVID-19 & #globaldev
Oxfam to cut half its Australian workforce as coronavirus inflames existing woes

Oxfam Australia is preparing to cut close to half of its workforce, citing financial difficulties stemming from years of reduced fundraising income and a “persistent decline in overseas aid budget” well before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Oxfam sends aid around the world, including funding work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia and fair trade producers in 18 countries.
Josh Taylor for the Guardian; similar to other sectors, e.g. #highered, the Corona crisis will likely push some #globaldev players over the edge of existing, more structural difficulties.

What use is the military-industrial complex in the COVID-19 crisis?

There is a still wider question, raised before on openDemocracy: in the light of incidents such as these, what are military forces for? Put bluntly, the world is facing the worst single challenge to human security since 1945 and the worst economic disaster for at least a century, yet traditional military preparations are irrelevant.
Paul Rogers for openDemocracy. Yep, flying those fighter jets across US cities to celebrate healthcare workers may not cut it...

Why this professor launched an Instagram Live show about COVID-19 and vulnerable communities

All of our guests have said it in different ways: The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, racialized, Indigenous and Latino communities, are the same disproportionate structural inequalities that we saw before COVID-19. Because of inequitable access to quality housing, many families, particularly families of colour, don’t have the luxury to go to a separate room or a basement to distance themselves if someone tests positive for COVID-19. That impacts the number of individuals that we will ultimately see test positive for COVID-19 – and perhaps even die from it.
Tanya Sharpe talks to University Affairs about her Instagram project to connect vulnerable communities in Canada.

Yemen: State narratives, social perceptions & health behaviours around COVID-19
It also analyses the political narratives that have been adopted by the different authorities and popular perceptions towards the pandemic. Both narratives and perceptions influence the public’s health behaviour and determine the degree to which Yemenis will adopt and adhere to a variety of different measures.
ACAPS with a new thematic report on Yemen. There is no shortage of reports at the moment, but this is a particularly interesting one that also look at narratives and perceptions, conducted by (local) anthropologists and issued by ACAPS-a brilliant resource for background information on humanitarian issues around the world!

Corona, how are you?

Where does this leave the European anthropologists, who departed from Kenya on one of these last planes that arrived empty at night? Our traditional interpretation of local fears as (significant) rumors no longer offers redemption—we are what they address us as. Our knowledge about what happens is not superior, nor more effective than that of those who call us “Corona.” More importantly, our detached and benevolent claim to ethnographic participant observation, always from a position of privilege and relative security, is put into question at precisely the moment when true participation finally becomes inevitable. Now it is us who “are participated” (as the old aid-worker joke went) by the pervasive virus that is in every touch—maybe in our body, maybe in that of the other. It challenges differentiation, threatening pathogenic communion. And the escape route that we had been able to count on for six decades of post-colonial anthropology is finally being withdrawn—the return flight home, in the worst case the medical evacuation at “unlimited expense.”
P. Wenzel Geissler & Ruth J. Prince for Africa is a Country with a great essay on the implications and perceptions of Corona being a 'white people disease'.

Elizabeth Cousens Has Raised Over $200 Million for the World Health Organization (Mostly) in Her Pajamas

She is much too much of a diplomat to name names, but she concedes that it's frustrating that not everyone and certainly not every leader recognizes that we're all interconnected. No matter who issued our passport or where we live, our health is tied up with the health of people around the world. We are only as safe as our neighbors. That's a message that Elizabeth Cousens is committed to getting out—now and long after this pandemic subsides.
Mattie Kahn for Glamour with an interesting piece that rather effortlessly mixes the genres of 'celebrities tell us about their days' with 'learn more about this important global project'.

Dire Times in Beirut as Lebanon Faces Possible Collapse

the dishonest politicians have impoverished the people of all religions and regions, and the people have protested, unified in their poverty and rejection of rampant corruption. Once the quarantine is relaxed, the revolution will inevitably return to the streets, even with social distancing, to continue the protests to end corruption. Already, as the government introduces measures to relax the quarantine, defiant protesters are returning to the streets in Tripoli and Beirut with signs condemning the “fassad” — Arabic for corruption — and the sleazy politicians. With inflation soaring, unemployment spiraling and malfeasance unabated at all levels, hunger is palpable. Lebanon is bracing against more chaos and unrest.
Sam Mattar for PassBlue shares his impression from locked down Beirut.

Trump, WHO, and Half a Century of Global Health Austerity

Any attempt to revive solidarity between rich and poor nations—after the decades-long effort to make the private market the progenitor of public goods—must begin by recapturing the commitment to social and economic rights on which the WHO was founded. The end of the Cold War left the WHO disempowered, floundering for attention from the most powerful nation-states and now mobilizing against the COVID-19 pandemic under countervailing conditions of global austerity—ones that have produced a poverty of U.S. support for WHO. Decades of working to make the functions of the WHO ancillary (or complimentary) to private delivery of public health resources, as a vestigial appendage of U.S. global dominance, have given Trump the excuse he needs to altogether eliminate the WHO as a vital organization. Seen in this long view, Trump’s announcement to pull U.S. funding from the WHO is only the most outlandish and conspicuous outcome of a forty-year effort to marginalize international cooperation on global health.
Michael Brenes & Michael Franczak for the Boston Review with a great essay on the history of the WHO and global health governance!

Development news

How White People Conquered the Non-Profit Industry

Now, the excuse that change takes time is bogus, and we can look to white organizations’ responses to the pandemic to prove this. A wave of flexibility, creativity and innovation happened overnight as people started to work from home. Protocol and procedures that dragged before were suddenly expedited. Decisions were made on the fly. Funds and budgets that were deemed complicated before, became accessible in crisis. Ideas that staff of color had been expressing for centuries were magically back on the table for consideration.
This shows that when there is a sense of urgency or pressure, non profits can move mountains to keep themselves afloat…sorry…to serve their darling less fortunate clients. Clearly, racism and white supremacy as our most constant pandemic is simply not a priority, not in pre-Corona America, and definitely not now. White leaders, all 83% of them as the statistic goes, are still refusing to defer to the leadership of people of color, even when their clients are predominantly people of color.
(...)
If you cannot serve the cause of racial justice from the sidelines, instead of trying to be the superstar or the warrior hero, you’re not quite getting the concept of what black liberation entails. A good leader must know when to defer to the expertise of those more qualified than themselves, and I don’t mean paper qualifications. A good leader must know when to step down and step back. If white people continue viewing the non profit industry or the practice of anti-racism as a trendy career field, a stepping stone to personal enlightenment, or a way to publicly assuage their guilt, they will perpetuate the same white supremacy they claim to disown.
Anastasia Reesa Tomkin and the persistent problem of diverse leadership on the non-profit (and #globaldev) sector.

‘The longer I spent in Kabul, the less satisfying it was to write only traditional news or features’

I didn’t approach it as a conventional memoir as I didn’t want it to be a story about me. The reason being that there are many stories about journalists going to Kabul or other conflict zones, and I didn’t see the need to centre that narrative. This was not a book about the writer, but about the city.
An interview with the author of 'Shadow City' Taran N Khan for Scroll.in on re-discovering Kabul.

Searching for happiness in camp Moria

Looking back, I often think about the two young women that I encountered during my first day working in the camp. Who they were, what their pasts were or what their futures hold, I do not know. But what I witnessed in how they dressed and held themselves, how they walked, was an underlying dignity. I hope this emanation of dignity is not only an impression left on me, a stranger passing through for a short time; but also something they feel deeply. My wish is for everyone, and especially the people living in camp Moria, to experience this: dignity and the accompanying feeling of self-worth or intrinsic happiness. Even in the moments when you have lost almost everything and your future is unclear.
Martijn R. Hofman for Missing in the Mission shares his reflections on being a psychological aid volunteer in Greece.

Romania’s forests and a global pandemic: a case of ecological entanglement

The slow violence wrought by such a total ban on timber harvesting and trade will exacerbate the vulnerabilities of rural people and the forests across the Carpathian range. As the Romanian case shows, bans are never only about saving forests or allowing nature to heal itself. They have manifold political and social outcomes and enforcing them in crisis situations can have severe – and long-ranging – impacts.
George Iordăchescu for Biosec with an interesting update from the European periphery.

Urbanising Tibet: Aspirations, Illusions, and Nightmares

Yet, like other governments across the globe, the CCP also fears the instability associated with large-scale urbanisation and has sought to carefully manage it. It employs a toolkit of governance mechanisms such as the hukou restrictions, identification checks, facial recognition tracking, and other surveillance tools to regulate and monitor the flow of human and material capital to raise the ‘quality’ of urban populations and create a hierarchy of urban spaces. On the one hand, the Party stresses the need to make cities more accessible to ethnic minorities. On the other, it remains nervous about the clash of cultures and any spontaneous outbursts of resistance, especially in large urban centres. And so most Tibetan urbanisation occurs chiefly in small and medium sized townships created by the rezoning and development of former pasturelands, rather than through large-scale migration into major Han metropolitan centres.
Ben Hillman, Gerald Roche & James Leibold for the Australia Himalaya Research Network with an insightful essay on urbanization in Tibet.

The Rise of Mercenarism: Avoiding International Accountability

Mercenaries provide a semi-permanent stronghold in Libya for countries like Russia and Turkey and allow them to continue the fight while eschewing international accountability. In other words, these soldiers of fortune may act as substitutes for those times when these two powers and others will not be able to rely on their national armies.
Oana-Cosmina Mihalache for E-International Relations on mercenaries with a focus on Libya. Interesting to compare today's avoidance of accountability to the the British debates in the 1970s & 80s that Phil Miller highlights in his book 'Keenie Meenie'-in short, not much has changed...

The eight must-read African novels to get you through lockdown

I approached literary academic colleagues from South Africa, Kenya and Uganda to choose – and share their thoughts on – one of their favourite books of African fiction. The resulting finger-on-the-pulse list offers a bookshelf that speaks to the vibrancy of both contemporary and older African literature.
Isabel Hofmeyr for the Conversation with more great reading suggestions!

Our digital lives
Google sibling Sidewalk Labs nixes Toronto smart city project

Sidewalk Labs, first announced in 2015, has faced blowback over the project every step of the way, as privacy advocates worry about data collection and the potential for mass surveillance. Two years ago, a handful of advisors, including Ann Cavoukian, former information and privacy commissioner for Ontario, resigned over privacy concerns.
Richard Nieva for cnet about the closing Sidewalk labs in Toronto-officially because of business concerns, but also because the project wouldn't have succeeded in a post-pandemic world...

Publications
Development as Rebellion: A Biography of Julius Nyerere
A beautiful addition to any bookshelf!

The Internet Myth
By comparing and integrating different sources related to network histories, this book emphasizes how a dominant narrative has extensively contributed to the construction of the Internet myth while other visions of the networked society have been erased from the collective imaginary. The book decodes, analyzes and challenges the foundations of the network ideologies looking at how networks have been imagined, designed and promoted during the crucial phase of the 1990s.
Paolo Bory with a new open access book from University of Westminster Press.

Metal mining and birth defects: a case-control study in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Widespread environmental contamination caused by mining of copper and cobalt has led to concerns about the possible association between birth defects and exposure to several toxic metals in southern Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We therefore aimed to assess the possible contribution of parental and antenatal exposure to trace metals to the occurrence of visible birth defects among neonates.
(...)
Paternal occupational mining exposure was the factor most strongly associated with birth defects. Because neither Mn nor Zn are mined in Lubumbashi, the mechanism of the association between their increased prenatal concentrations and birth defects is unclear.
Daan Van Brusselen, Tony Kayembe-Kitenge, Sébastien Mbuyi-Musanzayi, Toni Lubala Kasole, Leon Kabamba Ngombe, Paul Musa Obadia, Daniel Kyanika wa Mukoma, Koen Van Herck, Dirk Avonts, Koen Devriendt, Erik Smolders, Célestin Banza Lubaba Nkulu & Benoit Nemery with an open access article in Lancet Planetary Health.

Recentering the South in Studies of Migration

Neil Carrier and Gordon Mathews explore connections between two sites that “have become emblematic of much South-South
migration and mobility” (Eastleigh, Nairobi, and Xiaobei, Guangzhou), thereby highlighting the ways that South-South migration “off er opportunities for literal and social mobility—
opportunities that the global North attempts to restrict for citizens of the South.” Three articles then focus on different dimensions of refugee response in diverse countries of the global South. Hanno Brankamp and Patricia Daley’s article traces how “both colonial and postcolonial migration regimes in Kenya and Tanzania have reproduced forms of diff erential governance toward the mobilities of particular African bodies,” exploring racialization processes taking place between African societies and setting out an agenda for future research in this field. Complementing Brankamp and Daley’s emphasis on regimes and systems that create inequalities,
including vis-à-vis exploitative labor regimes, Reem Farah’s article critically “studies up” the humanitarian industry and the unequal position of “expatriate” versus “local” humanitarian workers in Jordan. Further expanding the focus on local responses to displacement, Heather Wurtz and Olivia Wilkinson examine the ways that local faith actors in Mexico and Honduras conceptualize and engage with concepts such as “innovation” and “self-suffi ciency” that are central to the international humanitarian system. Demonstrating the significance of historically, spatially, and socially sensitive analyses of migration, in their article, Sarah Turner, Th i-Thanh-Hien Pham, and Ngô Th ủy Hạnh subsequently examine migration processes within the context of Vietnam’s northern upland frontier. In so doing, they aim to “contribute to broader debates regarding migrant ongoing engagement with their homelands, and diversity and stratification within migration flows in the global South.”
Migration and Society with an special open access journal issue.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 153, 14 August 2015)
On Facebook’s Internet.org false promises of a “poor man’s internet”

If Facebook truly wants to do good and make the Internet more accessible to the poor, it should not offer a scaled-down, crippled and encryption-less “poor-man’s Internet”, but come up with ways to provide low-cost access to the actual, open Internet to remote and rural areas. Judging by the technology behind connectivity-beaming drones like Aquila, the technical means to do this are there. If we are to learn from the past, solutionism is not a pathway to development, and to see evidence of this we can look back on projects like the One Laptop Per Child initiative.
My friend Hani Morsi with a guest post on Internet.org-another #ICT4D initiative that never really took off...well, here's a recent update Discover is Facebook’s new effort to help people access websites for free — but with limits from TechCrunch that provides some insights into the developments of Internet.org as well.

I spent a weekend at Google talking with nerds about charity. I came away … worried.

If effective altruism does a lot more of that, it can transform philanthropy and provide a revolutionary model for rigorous, empirically minded advocacy. But if it gets too impressed with its own cleverness, the future is far bleaker.
Dylan Matthews for Vox on Effective Altruism and the tech solutionism industry...article features a picture of an all-white-male panel including Elon Musk...

The Inadequacy of Corporate Social-Responsibility Programs

Companies are spending millions on small, piecemeal fixes while lobbying against regulations that would do far more.
Gilian B. White for the Atlantic with a great article whose headline says it all...

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